Saturday, April 30, 2011

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee reacts on FOXNEWS story on UNDP's assistance to Syrian Dictator (BASHAR)

House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman

CONTACT: Brad Goehner and Andeliz Castillo, (202) 225-5021, April 29, 2011Alex Cruz (South Florida press), (202) 225-8200


Ros-Lehtinen Warns of ‘Bucks for Bashar’ Scandal, Calls for End to UN Development Program Aid for Syria

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) proposed 5-year, $38 million aid plan for Syria. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Given UNDP’s track record of mismanagement, malfeasance, and diversion of funds in Afghanistan, Burma, and North Korea, I am deeply concerned that UNDP assistance to Syria could end up benefitting the Syrian regime. We’ve already had the ‘Cash for Kim’ scandal in North Korea. This aid plan must be terminated to avoid any potential ‘Bucks for Bashar’ scandal in Syria.

“UNDP’s proposed aid package for Syria is premised on the false belief that the murderous dictatorship in Damascus can be a legitimate partner for democratic governance, economic growth, and development. The program proposal itself notes that UNDP will ‘continue to work closely with the government of Syria,’ even as the world witnesses the regime’s escalation of violence and repression against the Syrian people.

“Other UN agencies have also engaged in questionable dealings with the regime. For example, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency banks with the regime-controlled Commercial Bank of Syria, which has been designated under U.S. law for terror financing and money laundering.

“UNDP simply cannot be trusted to behave in a transparent, accountable manner, particularly when it operates in areas governed by rogue regimes. As such, U.S. taxpayer funds must not be contributed to UNDP.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

UNDP's uncle Helen is aiding Syrian Dictator to crush peaceful protesters

A fox news story shows how UNDP continue to aid the Syrian Dictatorship despite democratic protests


Amid Syrian Crackdown, U.N. Considering $38 Million Aid Plan for Government

By George Russell

While Syria’s government is killing hundreds of pro-democracy protesters, the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, is considering whether to approve a $38 million, five-year aid program for Damascus, to continue what it calls “a well-functioning partnership with the government.”

Approval of the plan is on the agenda for the next meeting of the development agency’s 36-member Executive Board, slated to begin on June 6.

The U.S. is among a dozen Western nations that are board members. Among other things, the program calls for UNDP to “continue to work closely with the government of Syria,” led by President Bashar Assad, while strengthening its collaboration with “NGOs [non-government organizations], the private sector, the donor community and local authorities”—all of which may be impossible to do amid the Assad regime’s ugly crackdown and its aftermath.

The proposal says little about political conditions under the Syrian dictatorship, except to note mildly that the country’s “democratic governance needs strengthening.”

When queried about whether the program would be approved as scheduled, a UNDP spokesman told Fox News that the question of whether to go ahead with the approval “is currently under discussion.”

Members of the U.N.’s on-the-ground country team in Syria, which is lead by UNDP, “will revert to us on their recommendations soon,” the spokesman added.

Draft documents outlining the Syrian program, along with those for a handful of other Arab nations currently facing political turmoil, are not available on the UNDP website, even though similar programs for countries ranging from Ethiopia to Honduras are already posted.

Fox News obtained a copy of the Syria document, which optimistically projects that by 2015, with UNDP “enabling” support worth about $12.4 million, the Assad regime will be embarked on a major administrative reform program, “and will ensure increased participation of civil society and the private sector in the reform process.”

The same document projects that by 2015, “the Government will have ensured food security for all, and will have elaborated adequate mechanisms for addressing the consequences of climate change.”

Click here to read the draft country program.

The UNDP program for Syria, like almost all of the development agency’s programs around the world, is “nationally executed”—meaning, it counts on the Syrian government itself to carry out the plan, with supervisory and technical assistance from the UNDP’s local team.

In fact, according to the UNDP’s draft country program, the U.N. group’s activity in Syria is “largely based” on the regime’s own, upcoming five-year plan for 2011-2015, and involves mostly carrying out the wishes of the government itself, through intertwining relationships with many of the key ministries that assure the regime’s control. Among them: Justice, Information, Communications, Social Affairs and Labor and Foreign Affairs, as well as Economy and Trade, Tourism, Transport, Electricity and Environment.

The UNDP document characterizes the Syrian national plan as “a vision of the country characterized by equitable and inclusive human, social and economic development and fuller regional integration.”

In the draft country document, UNDP emphasizes the positive elements in its “cooperation,” including “the simplification of government processes for greater accountability and transparency” in the judiciary and municipal government, as well as support for such new institutions as a “Young Journalist Network. It also calls for creation of a “Media Training Institute effectively implementing training for male and female journalists.”

This would not be UNDP’s first joint venture in journalism with the Assad regime. In 2008, the aid organization signed a five-year, $400,000 project to “provide an influential and widespread English-daily newspaper to English-speaking Syrians and foreigners seeking Syrian news.”

The newspaper, the Syrian Times, would have the “capability of giving the Syrian account of events and news to an international audience seeking the perspective and news from the local source.” UNDP’s task was to offer strategies to “improve the efficiency and intellectual potential of the newspaper,” as well as revamp its business model.

Click here for a copy of the 'Support to the Syrian Times Newspaper' project.

Whatever positive role UNDP lauds itself as playing, however, according to the U.S. State Department 2010 report on Syria, it hasn’t translated into less repression, more accountability, more democratic governance or much noteworthy efficiency.

Along with a lengthy list of brutalities committed by the Assad regime, the State Department notes that “the government imposed severe restrictions on civil liberties: freedoms of speech and press, including Internet and academic freedom; freedoms of assembly and of association, including severe restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and freedoms of religion and movement.”

In the most recent national and municipal elections in Syria, in 2007, the report notes that the balloting was “neither free nor fair,” and according to human rights advocates “served to reassert the primacy and political monopoly of power Assad and the Ba’ath Party apparatus wielded.” It adds that outside observers “uniformly” dismissed official voter statistics as “fraudulent and not representative of observed participation.”

The report also says that “the judiciary was not independent,” and that “approximately 95 percent of judges” were adherents or associates of the Ba’athist party. It notes that “an atmosphere of corruption pervaded the government.”

How UNDP will square those observations with its proposed new program of support for Syria, if and when it is discussed and voted on, remains to be seen. According to the UNDP spokesman, “the finalized program will reflect and depend on developments in Syria.”

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News

How to gauge the success of the State Department's new internal social network, Corridor.


Corridor's Success Metrics

Last week, I wrote about Corridor, the State Department's new internal social networking portal. This week, I want to examine some ways that its administrators can illustrate to their leadership that their investment in Corridor is returning results. Here are the top four metrics I think they should look at:

  • Membership and activity - especially among senior leadership
  • Reduction in email volume among members
  • Profile search volume and creation of ad hoc working groups
  • Integrating (or replacing) duplicative systems

Membership and activity - especially among senior leadership

Of course, the first metric of success is: are people joining the site and are they using its features? A more sophisticated analysis would look more closely at senior leadership and see if they are sharing articles with their staff, using the sites resources, and encouraging those under their supervision to turn to Corridor to accomplish their tasks more easily and quickly.

Senior leadership sets the tone and directs the activity of an office. When the office directors and other executives lead by example, their staff is more likely to follow them. More importantly, the senior leadership will add value to the content on the network. In State, as in any organization, staff is more likely to click on a link that is sent by those above them in the chain of command, and Corridor can make it easy for higher-ups to share the articles they find important.

Thankfully, gathering the numbers for this metric is easy. The set of GS15s and SESes is defined and seeing how often they post, how many links they share, and how many people click on the links are all data at eDiplomacy's disposal. This is perhaps the most important metric of success and can be articulated succintly: "Corridor has a large membership that uses its many features often."

And what do they use those features to do? Answering that question are the other succes metrics:

Reduction in email volume among members

One of the challenges for State, or any large organization, is creating documents that have multiple layers of editorial input. At State, they call it "moving paper." Currently, much of that work is done through email, an imperfect collaboration tool at best. Other work is either accomplished or cooredinated through email as well that would be better done through a social media portal with defined features specific to the tasks, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Asking questions to large groups of people, when only (a) a select few may know the answer and (b) only one person needs to respond. This situation can be better addressed either through a feature like Quora, or Facebook Questions.
  • Locating/storing documents on a shared drive. Through a social media portal, people should be able to tag documents with multiple key words and search for them, making them easier to find not only for themselves, but for others who are looking for them. (NB: the fact that State creates both classified and unclassified documents is an important issue I'll address in a later post on obstacles to success).
  • Finding contact info and creating working groups. Everyone has sent emails along the lines of "Hey, X, do you have Y's phone number/email address/office location?" Or even more difficult to answer: "Hey, X, do you remember that person who worked in Tunisia in 2006?" These types of questions can be answered through a robust personnel database that is searchable through multiple defined fields.

Profile search volume and the creation of ad hoc working groups

The last example in the previous section points directly to another success metric: are offices able to find people for specific vacancies more quickly. Additionally, working groups can be created quickly (outside the strictures of State's staffing protocols) to address urgent needs. Search volume is a straight-forward metric and it will depend heavily on members filling out complete profiles and making those profiles searchable.

Integrating (or replacing) duplicative systems

Of course, State already has a personnel database. It also has internal email, and a host of other features that Corridor can be seen as duplicating. One component of Corridor's success will be either integrating itself with these systems (HR being perhaps the best example), or supplanting those systems (collaboration space and sounding Board - State's online suggestion box- perhaps the best examples). This will result in cost savings for the Department and time savigns for all employees.

I'm curious to know what other success metrics could be developed. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Next, I'll outline the features of corridor and show how they align with the success metrics. Then, I'll write about some obstacles to success that eDiplomacy will have to navigate.

@UNDP: So why not try to figure out which projects work and focus our resources on them?

More Tales of Two Tails

By Guest Blogger | Published April 28, 2011


The following post is by Dennis Whittle, co-founder of GlobalGiving. Dennis blogs at Pulling for the Underdog.

An eloquent 3 year-old would have been better asking “What the dickens are you talking about? Who is defining success? Who says failure is bad, anyway?” – Joe

Earlier I blogged about aid cheerleaders and critics. Each camp argues about the mean outcome of aid rather than the distribution of impact among projects. Both camps agree that some projects have positive results and others negative. So why not try to figure out which projects work and focus our resources on them?

I got some great and insightful comments and a few nice aid distribution graphs from readers. Here are some key themes:

1. The mean *does* matter if the distribution is random. In other words, if we can’t predict in advance what types of projects will succeed, we should only spend more resources if the mean outcome is positive.

2. Many people believe that on average the biggest positive returns come from investment in health projects.

3. We should also look at the distribution of impact even within successful projects, because even projects that are successful on average can have negative impacts on poorer or more vulnerable people.

4. Given the difficulty in predicting ex-ante what will work, a lot of experimentation is necessary. But do we believe that existing evaluation systems provide the feedback loops necessary to shift aid resources toward successful initiatives?

5. “Joe,” the commenter above, argues that in any case traditional evaluators (aid experts) are not in the best position to decide what works and what doesn’t.

From reader Steve White: "Here is my graph based on two stylized facts about aid projects: 1) most projects have very marginal impacts (agricultural tools to villages, microcredit, school construction, textbooks, scholarships, deworming...) and 2) some health projects have HUGE impacts (vaccinations, DDT, bednets)." The two bars represent impacts between -1 and 0, and between 0 and 1

From reader Daniel Kyba: "Those which do a good job are the ones with defined and observable measures - profit/loss; live/die and so on. These measures provide a form of a feedback mechanism at the project level to which the aid provider can respond. As you move towards the world of fuzzy concepts and measures that is where the ineffectiveness occurs, due to the lack of feedback mechanisms and because there is less definition of success/failure."

Petr Jansky sent a paper he is working on with colleagues at Oxford about cocoa farmers in Ghana. The local trade association was upset that they could not get pervasive adoption of a new package of fertilizer and other inputs designed to increase yields. According to their models, the benefits to farmers should be very high. The study found that – on average – that was true, but that the package of inputs has negative returns to farmers with certain types of soil or other constraints. Farmers with zero or negative returns were simply opting out.

At first glance, these findings seem obvious and trivial. But they are profound, in at least two ways. First, retention rates are an implicit and easily observable proxy for net returns to farmers. We don’t need expensive outside evaluations to tell us whether the overall project is working or not. And second, permitting farmers to decide acknowledges differential impacts on different people even within a single project.

What other ways could we design aid projects to allow the beneficiaries themselves to evaluate the impact and opt in or out depending on the impact for them personally? And how would it change the life of aid workers if their projects were evaluated not by outside experts and formal analyses but by beneficiaries themselves speaking through the proxy of adoption?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Should world Women trust United Nations ? A FOXNEWS published UN internal investigation says ...NO

Fox News - Fair & Balanced click here for story

U.N. Investigators Depict Equality for Women Efforts Within U.N. System are a Costly Failure

By George Russell

Published April 11, 2011


EXCLUSIVE: A month after the United Nations last summer announced the creation of a new, $500 million-a-year organization to promote equality for women in global affairs, the U.N.’s own investigators revealed that 15 years of “gender mainstreaming” efforts within the UN Secretariat have been a sweeping and costly failure.

The report, issued in August 2010, evaluates how gender mainstreaming -- the term that the U.N. uses to describe achieving equality between the sexes in all walks of life -- is being incorporated in all U.N. work to “ensure that the different needs and circumstances of women and men are identified and taken into account when policies and projects are developed and implemented.”

The evaluation carried out by the U.N. watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), looked at 20 of the U.N.’s most important departments and offices. It found glaring deficiencies almost everywhere.

Among them:

- A fundamental lack of knowledge among U.N. staffers about the gender policy, with less than half of program managers polled saying they “always” or “mostly” believed their staff understood what gender mainstreaming is or why it should be implemented.

- An equally fundamental lack of understanding of what “gender mainstreaming” was supposed to achieve. According to the report, U.N. staffers often assess evidence of gender mainstreaming by counting the number of references to “gender,” “women,” and “girls” in documents, “rather than undertaking a considered, qualitative assessment of whether a gender perspective [meaning sensitivity to sexual equality] informs work processes.”

- “Weaknesses in leadership and accountability” in making gender equality programs work -- along with a pointed observation that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his top managers “carry the responsibility for the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations Secretariat.”

- “Lack of comprehensive and systematic evidence of results.”

In other words, there was little evidence that anyone was even trying systematically to make the programs work. In the 20 departments and programs surveyed, only 12 had policies or strategies or had distributed specific guidelines on how gender mainstreaming was supposed to operate.

Click here for the full report.

Those conclusions were not for lack of U.N. efforts -- and hundreds of millions of dollars in spending -- on behalf of women’s rights, as the report documents a welter of U.N. officials, many specifically appointed to the task, running off in various directions to promote improved attitudes toward sexual equality, without necessarily indicating what they were trying to promote.

The picture painted by the document is a particular embarrassment to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has made women’s rights a personal crusade since he took office in December 2006, and who orchestrated the latest U.N. agency to boost the promotion of the issue.

Ban’s own office, it appears, declined to contribute to the OIOS effort to analyze the U.N.’s gender mainstreaming effort. One reason for the lack of input may have been a simmering feud that broke into the open last year between Ban and the then-head of OIOS, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, who was about to end her mandated term as chief of the watchdog group.

In an end-of-mandate letter to Ban in July 2010, which was promptly leaked to the press, Ahlenius accused the secretary general of blocking key personnel choices, “undermining” her organization and leading a Secretariat that was “drifting into irrelevance.”

Ban denied all the charges. The OIOS report on “gender mainstreaming” was published just weeks after news of the quarrel broke.

The U.N. established its gender mainstreaming policy as a global plan of action in 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The Beijing Platform for Action, which resulted from the conference, required nations to work toward ending discrimination against women by reforming areas such as health care and education to take greater account of women’s needs.

A host of other UN conferences and documents have emphasized the same theme.

But that only scratches the surface of the UN’s efforts, since a flock of U.N. agencies had been working in support of a female economic and social agenda for decades previously.

Four of the most important -- the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; the Division for the Advancement of Women; the United Nations Development Fund for Women; and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women -- had a combined annual budget last year of $250 million, according to the U.N.

Those are the agencies that the UN announced in July 2010 would be merged into the new body known as the “United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,” or U.N. Women, effective January 2011.

The first head of the new organization is Chile’s former Socialist president, Michelle Bachelet.

The new agency got $70.2 million in start-up donations last year, and has begun fundraising for its $500 million annual budget target.

It says it will present its first strategic plan to the 41-member supervisory executive board this June. Almost as soon as it was announced, the organization drew controversy when Saudi Arabia and Libya, both countries where women have secondary status, were chosen to sit on the executive board.

One of the main functions of the new organization, according to the U.N, Women website, is to help “intergovernmental bodies” in their formulation of “policies, global standards and norms” in the women rights area. U.N. Women is especially supposed to support the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women --- composed of 45 U.N. member states on a rotating basis, mandated in 1946 to make recommendations on “urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights.”

The commission is described as “the U.N.’s principal policy-making body” on the issue.

Presumably in executing the Council’s wishes, U.N. Women is supposed to help member states implement pro-female standards -- and hold the entire U.N. system itself “accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.”

Via a U.N. inter-agency network, U.N. Women, according to its website, “helps orchestrate the efforts of 25 U.N. organizations to promote gender equality across the U.N. system.” Apparently the four organizations now blended into U.N. Women, were doing a pretty poor job, according to the OIOS findings. Among other things, the report says, there was plenty of bureaucratic action on the gender equality front, but not much coordination.

The U.N. programs surveyed all have different ideas about what the objectives of gender mainstreaming ought to be, and different ideas about how to carry out the sexual equality agenda. Only three programs surveyed actually “went beyond objectives to specify required actions for staff at each level,” the report reveals, a task it admitted was “inherently difficult.” But there were plenty of office holders claiming to be heavily involved in gender-related work.

Many U.N. programs, the report says, “had a gender unit, or adviser, and some also had specialist gender expertise at field locations.” Others had developed “a network of gender focal points, who had gender mainstreaming responsibilities in addition to their substantive work.”

Some had definite lines of accountability for what they did, and others did not. “Approaches to resourcing, capacity development, monitoring and reporting were also varied,” the report notes dryly. Just how much all that effort cost is not known. Few U.N. programs “claimed to track the human and/or financial resources associated with gender mainstreaming,” the OIOS report noted. Nor was anyone trying very hard to learn from anyone else.

“In searching for effective approaches, each program appears to be constantly reinventing initiatives,” the report notes. One outcome of the disorganized efforts: Only 45 percent of U.N. managers surveyed said they felt UN staff “always” or “mostly” understood what gender mainstreaming was, compared to 49 percent who said staff “sometimes” or “never know.”

In more general terms, the report notes, “when asked how gender mainstreaming contributed to the goal of gender equality, those interviewed often struggled to offer concrete or documented examples.”

According to OIOS, one way to remedy the deficiencies would be to shift the UN’s focus “from process to results.”

Some “common principles, tools and indicators for common tasks” would also help. So would an action plan that contained “desired outcomes and indicators,” as well as “establishing clear expectations for [U.N.] managers and staff at all levels.” Many of the OIOS recommendations appear to have been included in U.N. Women’s first 100-Day Action Plan, announced by Bachelet in February.

Among other things, it claims that the new organization “will prepare a system-wide coordination strategy on gender equality in the first half of 2011, with clear deliverables for U.N. Women and the U.N. system, to promote greater coherence in line with existing agencies’ mandates and priorities.”

Bachelet also promised to clear up some of the fog surrounding how much money the U.N. already spends on women’s equality issues, by creating a “shared resource tracking system for the U.N. system.” How long will it take to see if the new organization does any better than the constellation of organizations it has replaced?

In its report, the OIOS calls the launch of U.N. Women “an opportunity for an early re-evaluation of gender mainstreaming in the Secretariat” -- preferably within three years. Given its current projected budget, that would allow UN Women to spend at least $1.5 billion on supporting “policies, global standards and norms” for sexual equality before deciding whether the U.N. had done any better than in the past.

An important U.N. budget committee, however, has already declared its concern that the new agency’s launch plans are “overly ambitious,” and that its management, drawn from the organizations it replaces, runs the risk of being top-heavy.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News